Posts tagged with "Children and Screens"

Child with phone illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Children and Screens Announces Grant

­CHILDREN AND SCREENS ANNOUNCES $100,000 GRANT SUPPORTING NEW RESEARCH INTO DIGITAL MEDIA USE AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development is pleased to announce that it has awarded a grant of $100,000 to Marc Potenza, Ph.D., MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University, Yihong Zhao, Ph.D., member of the Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies at Rutgers University, and their interdisciplinary, interinstitutional team, in support of their research exploring the associations between screen media activity and brain development in school-aged children. 
 
“It is vital to investigate what ever-increasing digital media engagement means for developing brains, especially in middle childhood when children’s devices and brains are working on overdrive. Technology is advancing rapidly, and we hope to do our part to help science keep up; we are delighted to create opportunities to advance scientific research on this topic through the Institute, which I founded 13 years ago.” Dr. Pam Hurst-Della Pietra, President and Founder, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development 
 
Drawing on longitudinal data from the NIH’s landmark Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, Dr. Potenza, Dr. Zhao, and their associates intend to utilize state-of-the-art statistical methodology and predictive modeling to investigate the relationships between digital media use and changes in brain structure and function, as well as the associated clinically relevant behaviors. The study, which was proposed following the Institute’s March 2020 Digital Media and Developing Brain Research Retreat, will examine the effects of a variety of specific media-based activities and will focus on children from ages 9-12. The results of this research will yield benefits and insight not only for the research community, but also for families, clinicians, and policymakers.
 
“The advances in ‘big data’ approaches have led to an unprecedented increase in our understanding of how brain structure and function relate to specific behaviors. With the support of Children and Screens, we aim to apply novel and innovative big data approaches to ABCD data to understand how brain structure and function relate to, and importantly may be impacted by, types and patterns of screen media activity. Dr. Martin Paulus and colleagues used a portion of the first wave of ABCD data to identify patterns of cortical thinning associated with screen media activity. We hope to build off and extend this work by examining the full initial sample and subsequent waves of ABCD data to determine brain-behavior relationships with respect to youth screen media activity. We hope to communicate these findings in order to advance prevention and policy efforts that promote healthy childhood development in environments increasingly involving digital technologies.” – Dr. Marc Potenza, Grant Recipient
 
Bridging the medical, neuroscientific, social scientific, education, and academic communities, the Children and Screens’ interdisciplinary scientific research grants program was conceived as part of a larger research program to advance and support study, knowledge, and scientific collaboration. Developed in 2017, the grants program provides researchers with access to the early-stage financial support necessary to pilot worthy new projects studying the impact of children’s engagement with current and evolving technologies.
 
In addition to the research funds awarded as part of the retreat program and those granted to explore the impacts of digital media during the current health crisis, Children and Screens’ regular Tips for Parents newsletter provides evidence-based, practical advice for families coping with the unprecedented realities of the pandemic, including changed economic circumstances, health concerns, lockdowns, social distancing, remote learning, and working from home. Each newsletter features insights from world-renowned experts, who share tips and advice about managing screen time, social media use, gaming, technology addiction, privacy, parenting, and more.
 
In addition, our popular, bi-weekly Ask the Experts virtual workshop series features dynamic conversations among international, interdisciplinary experts in the field of digital media and child development. Each discussion explores a different digital media challenge associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and presents families with current scientific research, clinical advice, and practical, evidence-based advice. Panelists include leading parenting experts, former AAP Presidents, top child and adolescent psychiatrists, high-impact journal editors, leading researchers, well-known authors, and others. To date, the series has reached parents, researchers, educators, clinicians, government agencies, and public health professionals in over 30 countries and all 50 states.
 
About Children and Screens:
Since its inception in 2013, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, has become one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing and supporting interdisciplinary scientific research, enhancing human capital in the field, informing and educating the public, and advocating for sound public policy for child health and wellness.

Digital Divide illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Digitally Disconnected

DIGITALLY DISCONNECTED

13 TIPS FOR HELPING BRIDGE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE FOR CHILDREN DURING COVID-19

While social, racial, and economic disparities have always existed within the educational system, the COVID-19 pandemic is exasperating these inequities and widening gaps between students at a drastic rate. For families who can’t afford home computers, laptops, or high-speed internet access, remote learning is nearly impossible, and for students who already found themselves struggling before the pandemic, the prospect of more than a year of lost classroom time is a devastating blow. However, there are steps parents can take to shrink this digital divide, and there are resources available via schools, non-profits, and government initiatives that can help children access the technological tools they need to succeed. Indeed, Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, President and Founder of Children and Screens, notes that “the inclusion of 17.2 billion dollars for closing the ‘homework gap’ in the recently passed American Rescue Plan is a watershed moment for digital equity.”   
 
Several of the leading figures in the fields of public health, education, psychology, and parenting have weighed in with their suggestions on the best ways to combat the digital divide, and many will participate in an interdisciplinary conversation and Q&A hosted by Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development on Wednesday, March 24, at 12pm ET via Zoom. Moderated by the Director of Internet and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center Lee Rainie, the panel will engage in an in-depth discussion about the digital divide and actionable steps we can all take to bridge the gap. RSVP here.
 
1. DON’T WAIT, ADVOCATE 

While schools across the country are doing everything they can to make sure that children have access to the technology and connectivity they need for remote learning, the unfortunate reality is that many families still lack adequate resources. If your family is among them, says author and MIT Assistant Professor of Digital Media Justin Reich, know that you’re not alone and that there are steps you can take to advocate for what your children need. “Start with your school staff,” Reich recommends. “They’re often overwhelmed during this challenging time but be polite and persistent. If you run into a dead-end with your school system, consider reaching out to school libraries and youth organizations like The Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA to see what kind of support they might be able to offer.”
 
2. SCALE DOWN 

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Professor Dr. Wayne Journell agrees, pointing out that sometimes, despite their best efforts, teachers and administrators may not always know which students are struggling with connectivity issues. “Let teachers know if you have slow internet at home,” says Journell. “Sometimes detailed graphics and animations that look cute but have little relevance to the actual lessons being delivered can cause problems for students with unreliable internet. If teachers are aware, then they can scale down the ‘frilly’ stuff and still get the important content across.”
 
3. STAND UP FOR YOURSELF  

While it’s important for parents to speak up on behalf of their children, RAND Senior Policy Researcher Julia Kaufman, Ph.D., highlights the importance of encouraging children to express their needs, as well. “If your child does not have access to technology at home and is falling behind, make sure your child’s teacher knows the obstacles they’re facing and ask what accommodations will make it easier for your child to do assignments offline,” says Rand. “At the same time, help your child feel comfortable expressing any technology concerns or confusion to their teachers, including cases where they have the technology but cannot use it well.”
 
4. CHECK YOUR ASSUMPTIONS 

One critical step that educators and policymakers can take in addressing the digital divide is to check their assumptions. They cannot – and should not – assume that students do or do not have access based solely on demographics such as family income level. “In addition, they cannot assume that providing access alone creates equity,” adds Dr. Beth Holland, a Partner at The Learning Accelerator (TLA) and Digital Equity Advisor to the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN). “This is a complex and nuanced challenge that needs both a technical and a human solution to ensure that students not only have access to sufficient high-speed internet and devices but also accessible systems and structures to support their learning.”

5. SURVEY AND MODIFY  

For teachers who are on the ground and in the classroom, checking your assumptions can be as simple as asking a few basic questions at the start of the term. “Survey students to determine the percentage of your population that doesn’t have home Internet access,” recommends former AAP President Dr. Colleen A. Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP. “Once you know the divide, you can address it,” adding, “When planning 1:1 projects and choosing devices, for example, you can consider a device’s capacity for offline use. For those without Wi-Fi, a public library in the child’s neighborhood can also be an excellent resource.”

6. VOTE FOR CHANGE 

That parents and teachers need to worry about the digital divide at all is a failure on the part of our elected leaders, says Bates College Associate Professor of Education Mara Casey Tieken. “Contact your elected officials—local, state, and federal—and complain,” she suggests. “Write letters, call their offices, attend their legislative sessions, and make your voice heard. Join with other families whose children are impacted by this divide to amplify your message and use your vote to support lawmakers who understand the impacts of this divide, have a clear plan to address it and are willing to take action.”
 
7. MAKE BROADBAND A UTILITY  

Reich agrees, reminding those families who already have their needs met that they share in the responsibility to advocate for the less fortunate. “It’s our job as citizens to demand that we as a society give families and children the tools and resources that they need for remote learning now and in the future,” says Reich. “We need to advocate for a society where broadband is treated as a utility rather than a luxury good, and young people enrolled in schools and educational programs have access to computers for learning.”

8. CONCRETE INITIATIVES  

Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, advocates four concrete initiatives. “Establish a permanent broadband benefit, increase access to affordable computers, digital literacy and technical support, improve broadband mapping (including residential cost data), and support local and state digital inclusion planning.” By implementing these changes, Siefer says, policymakers can start to mitigate the digital divide. 

9. USE TECH FOR GOOD 

There are many reasons to consider equitable solutions along a “digital continuum” rather than the “digital divide;” a binary description leaves less room for nuanced and customized interventions. It may be imperative to fortify existing institutions, implement new governance structures and promulgate policies to confront disparities regarding working families. Antwuan Wallace, Managing Director at National Innovation Service, suggests that legislators consider a Safety and Thriving framework to increase family efficacy to support children with protective factors against the “homework gap” by utilizing technology to train critical skills for executive functioning, including planning, working memory, and prioritization. 
 
10. LEVEL THE FIELD 

Emma Garcia of the Economic Policy Institute emphasizes that guided technology education will be of great value after the pandemic. She says, “it will need be instituted as part of a very broad agenda that uses well-designed diagnostic tests to know where children are and what they need (in terms of knowledge, socioemotional development, and wellbeing), ensures the right number of highly credentialed professionals to teach and support students, and offers an array of targeted investments that will address the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on children’s learning and development, especially for those who were most hit by the pandemic.”
 
11. APPLY FOR LIFELINE 

Research also shows that the digital divide disproportionately affects Latino, Black, and Native American students, with the expensive price of internet access serving as one of the main obstacles to families in these communities. “Eligible parents can apply for the Lifeline Program, which is a federal program that can reduce their monthly phone and internet cost,” suggests Greenlining Institute fellow Gissela Moya. “Parents can also ask their child’s school to support them by providing hotspots and computer devices to ensure their child has the tools they need to succeed.”
 
12. GET INVOLVED 

Learning remotely can be difficult for kids, even if they have access to all the technological tools they need. Research shows that parental encouragement is also an important aspect of learning for children, notes London School of Economics professor and author Sonia Livingstone. “Perhaps sit with them, and gently explain what’s required or work it out together.” She adds that working together is a great way that parents with fewer economic or digital resources can support their children. “And if you don’t know much about computers, your child can probably teach you something too!”
 
13. NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL 

When it comes to encouraging your children, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. “Reflect on the more nuanced ways your children learn and leverage accessible resources (digital and non-digital) to inspire their continued curiosity,” says University of Redlands Assistant Professor Nicol Howard. Leaning into your child’s strengths and interests will help them make the most of this challenging time.
 
While the move to remote learning may seem like an insurmountable obstacle for families that can’t afford reliable internet or dedicated devices for their kids, there are a variety of ways that parents can help connect their children with the tools they need. For those privileged enough to already have access to the necessary physical resources, it’s important to remember that emotional support is also an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to children’s educational success, especially during days as challenging as these. Lastly, it falls on all of us to use our time, energy, and voices to work towards a more just world where the educational playing field is level and all children have the same opportunity to thrive and succeed, regardless of their social, racial, or financial background.
 
About Children and Screens
Since its inception in 2013, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, has become one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing and supporting interdisciplinary scientific research, enhancing human capital in the field, informing and educating the public, and advocating for sound public policy for child health and wellness. For more information, visit Children and Screens website or contact by email here.
 
The views and opinions that are expressed in this article belong to the experts to whom they are attributed, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, or its staff. 

Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development image for use by 360 Magazine

Ten Takeaways About Parental Controls

Keeping children safe while still giving them room to grow and develop can feel like a delicate tightrope walk for parents, especially during the pandemic. Parents often wonder when to introduce screens and devices into their children’s lives, what kind of restrictions to enforce, how closely to monitor their kids’ behavior, and how to respect privacy while still looking out for their children’s social, mental, cognitive and physical wellbeing.

To help parents navigate these thorny issues, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development has compiled nine key takeaways from its recent article on parental controls, monitoring apps, and media plans, provided by leaders in the fields of public health, education, psychology, and parenting, which featured several prominent experts in the field. Read on below, and be sure to watch the experts discussing this important topic at the Ask the Experts webinar, “All in the Family: A Conversation about Media Rules, Parental Controls, and Family Media Plans,” which covered the latest evidence-based advice about these topics, and provided practical tips on how to structure and supervise digital media use for years to come. Watch here!

1. WALK THE WALK

Your children are imitating the behavior you model, so start by setting a good example. If you often speak with your children while looking down at your phone, they will do the same. If you are on your tablet first thing in the morning and at the dinner table, they will want to do the same. Establish your household rules, and stick to them yourself.

2. MAKE A PLAN

Take time to speak with your co-parent(s) and establish what matters to you with regard to how your children spend their time at different ages, what their needs are and what they are seeing and doing when they are on a screen. It’s critical for you to consider the whole child, including their social-emotional and physical well-being, and to integrate tech into the larger picture of family life and values. Take a look at existing family media agreements, such as the one posted on the AAP website, and cut and paste what will work for your family and your expectations. Then, pick a moment when everyone is fed, rested, calm, and cooperative to begin a conversation about digital media use.

3. REMOTE THE CONTROL 
Appropriate control of your kids’ devices and the content your kids see will be determined by the age and maturity level of your children, as well as your own values and parenting style. Children benefit from having firm rules around screen time, as well as from seeing healthy attitudes and behaviors regarding screen use modeled by the adults in their lives. If you have younger children or children who are just acquiring a device, you should monitor their use more heavily in order to help them navigate options and make good choices. As your children get older, re-evaluate your strategies and adapt to your unique family needs and circumstances.

4. TALK IT OUT

Depending on their ages, involve your children in the parental control set-up and rule-setting, which models the open and honest conversation and behaviors that you expect from your children. In addition, take the time to speak with your whole family about whether parental control or monitoring apps are right for you, and keep the conversation going throughout use so that you can make adjustments as appropriate. Ongoing discussions aimed at supporting children’s development of self-regulation skills should focus on positive features of the digital world, including learning prosocial digital skills. Encourage your children to share their concerns with or objections to parental controls, and try to address them head on.

5. FIND THE RIGHT TIME

How early is too early? The first three-to-five years of life is a sensitive time for the wiring of children’s brains, so it’s best to delay exposure to screen time as long as possible, and then to select slow, developmentally appropriate shows with minimal screen transitions to avoid overstimulation. In middle childhood, be mindful of your children’s growing brain and your family values, keeping a close eye on the content your children watch and the games they play. Most social media platforms require a minimum age of 13, and experts agree that children under this age should not have their own online accounts.

Most experts agree that teens aged 12-15 are the most vulnerable group for cyber safety risks, so it can be helpful to give children their first personal device at around eleven, so that you can set rules around screen use when your children are more receptive and willing to comply with them. Remember that your job as a parent is to prepare them to be self-regulated, responsible adults; at some point during their teenage years, the time will come for you to loosen your restrictions. The key is to keep the conversation open and consider your teens’ requests for autonomy and agency with an open mind, reminding them what you need to feel comfortable and what they need to do to keep themselves safe.

6. SCREENS AREN’T THE NEW TIME OUT

Experts recommend against using screen time as a punishment or reward, since it can increase your children’s attraction to digital media, and decrease their attraction to other required activities like chores and homework, as well as other fun activities such as reading, sports, or music. In fact, research shows that when families use screen time as a reward for good behavior, children end up engaged in more screen time overall. Sticking to pre-determined boundaries around screen usage, regardless of good or poor behavior, will help children accept your guidelines.

7. UP AND APP’EM

If you decide to choose a monitoring app for your family, there are four key areas to consider: control, coverage, simplicity and value. A helpful app will allow you to specify limits for particular activities and manage devices and apps that don’t require internet data, as well as provide wide coverage, addressing the multi-device and multi-platform reality of family life. It should be simple, providing parents with easy ways to solve complex problems, without long manuals or hours of set-up. Finally, it should provide value, freeing up your time and reducing the amount of arguing about tech.

8. KNOW THE PITFALLS

It’s important to consider the risks of using monitoring apps, including how the data obtained by the control application is being used and stored. Additionally, parental control apps may slow the development of self-regulation skills in children or sidestep the impulse to have open conversations about the positives and negatives of technology, if you rely on technology to control problematic screen usage. In addition, you may wonder whether it is okay to track your children’s locations. If your children feel they are being tracked because you don’t trust them to make good decisions, using GPS tracking technologies will only create more tension in your relationship. If your kids know they are being tracked and feel safer because of it, it can be a helpful and supportive tool. As your children get older and want to find their own independence, it’s vital to be honest and open with them; tell them whether you’re tracking their movements or not, and explain the reasons why. For all of these apps, ask yourself if the reason you feel the need to use parental control apps in the first place is that, deep down, you know your children aren’t actually ready for the device or technology they’re using.

9. SIGN THE CONTRACT

Once you have considered all of the options and taken the time to speak with your co-parent(s) and children, it’s time to make a media plan and/or contract. Both lay out expectations about when, where, and for how long devices can be used, as well as the kind of content that can be consumed. Even though they are designed for children, they are equally helpful for parents, encouraging you to think about ideal situations for your family. Creating a contract allows you the opportunity to address topics you may otherwise not talk about until after there’s already an issue, while allowing your kids to see and understand where your boundaries are.

10. HIT “RESET”

If you are struggling to reach an agreement and convince your children to find a screen-life balance, you are not alone! When it comes to reevaluating your screen time rules and hitting a “reset button,” consider taking a digital detox for twenty-four hours each week, adjusting the whole house rules to include no media use after 10:00pm, putting your phones to bed in a common space, laying the phone down to “take a nap” while you go out for a bike ride, downloading mindfulness apps that remind kids to “stop the scroll”.  No matter your circumstance or how long you’ve had a media plan in place, take time to reconnect and reevaluate frequently and ditch the rules that aren’t working for you and try something new.  You can always keep your children busy the old fashioned way: encourage other activities such as bike riding, a building project, a safe summer camp, a walk, reading a book together, baking a cake – the possibilities are endless!

The Institute wishes to thank the experts who contributed their insights and expertise to “All in the Family: How Parental Controls, Monitoring Apps, and Media Plans can Support Health Digital Media Use,” from which these key takeaways were extracted.

About Children and Screens

Since its inception in 2013, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, has become one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing and supporting interdisciplinary scientific research, enhancing human capital in the field, informing and educating the public, and advocating for sound public policy for child health and wellness. For more information, see their website.

Teens and Screens During COVID-19

12 TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS FOR PARENTING TEENS ON SCREENS DURING COVID-19

This week, Children and Screens asked our experts to share their best advice for parents raising adolescents in the midst of the global pandemic. Just when parents thought that their teens couldn’t be on their devices for more hours in the day, initial data indicates that screen time among youth has increased dramatically during this time. Like younger kids, teens need guidance in managing their cognitive, emotional and physical health during this challenging and uncertain time, as well as boundaries and schedules for staying connected both on and offline. This age group is particularly susceptible to developing bad habits and addictions, so it’s more important than ever to continue encouraging a healthy relationship with screens and to give them the support they need.

Read on to learn the best ways to talk with your kids about technology and share beneficial screen time with your family; and, be sure to tune in to the next installment of our upcoming interactive popular webinar series this coming Tuesday, May 12th, at noon EDT, when our panel of experts will chat about healthy screen habits for teenagers and answer your questions via Zoom. RSVP here.

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS

While it’s important to monitor the amount of time your child spends with screens, it’s even more important to monitor what they’re actually doing with that time. Talking with friends? Encourage it. Writing a journal? Experimenting with music? Wonderful. Support your child’s need for friendship and creativity while also helping them understand that time away from distractions, time for solitude and mind-wandering, is something you value. Screens open our worlds except when they take us away from ourselves. Getting this balance right means you and your children are talking, and in my view, if that’s happening, the rest will follow. And what really helps: no screens at dinner. Consider dinner to be a sacred space, a place for conversation. – Sherry Turkle, Professor, MIT. Author, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.

LEAD THE WAY

With everyone cooped up at home, now is a great time for parents to play video games, watch movies and TV shows, and explore the world of social media with their kids. This kind of active media supervision allows parents to guide their children through the world of screens, and it’s been shown to have tremendous benefits in terms of behavior, academic success, and even physical health. This process also allows parents to understand more about the fantasy world of their kids, and it offers the chance for a healthy role reversal, one in which the child becomes the teacher and the parent can model good learning practices. – Paul Weigle, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist, associate medical director of Natchaug Hospital, Hartford HealthCare

TURN OFF THE NEWS

Daily smartphone use has skyrocketed since mid-March, and students have noted that their largest increases come with apps devoted to communication and the news. One makes kids happy; the other scares them. In order to focus on the positive, older children should reach out to others through Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc. for at least an hour a day. Neuroscientists say this calms an overloaded brain. In order to limit the negative, try setting limits on their time reading news apps. At a certain point, they’re more likely to raise their blood pressure and increase their anxiety by mindlessly bingeing the news than they are to actually learn anything. – Dr. Larry Rosen, Professor Emeritus of Psychology

ROUTINES FOR TEENS

The world feels like a chaotic and unpredictable place right now. Trying to maintain a routine can give children and families a sense of normalcy.  This is especially important since, by necessity, schools have shifted a lot of the responsibility for education to students and families. Right now, schoolwork and entertainment are often happening on the same devices.  Structure and routine can help kids prioritize schoolwork, so they take care of those responsibilities before shifting to entertainment or socializing with friends.  It’s also important to maintain routines around bedtime and to encourage kids to turn off their electronics at least an hour before bed.  A good night’s sleep does wonders for mood and anxiety.  –  Dr. Dale Peeples, Associate Professor at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University

EMBRACE THE ANALOG

More time at home means more time for valuable family activities such as cooking, home repair, spring cleaning, yard work, gardening, and landscaping. Adolescents can also unleash their creativity via painting, making music, or crafts. For those with access, the dearth of cars allows for safer and more enjoyable bike rides and long walks. This is also a special opportunity to learn about family history. Teens can interview their extended relatives and create memorabilia such as scrapbooks or cookbooks. – Kristopher Kaliebe, MD, Associate Professor, University of South Florida

TAKE A BREAK

Don’t feel guilty about the increase in your child’s screen time. As the New York Times recently reported: Coronavirus ended the screen time debate, and screens won. It’s not just children’s screen time that’s surged lately, though. Parents rely on screens to follow the news, buy groceries, teach their children, talk with colleagues and friends, and keep up with elderly family members, who they’re no longer allowed to see in person. That means kids and parents alike face increased risk for physical side effects, including nearsightedness, computer vision syndrome, and neck and back problems. Although it’s difficult to limit total screen time at the moment, parents should insist on regular breaks, both for their kids and themselves. – Professor Patti M. Valkenburg, University of Amsterdam

KEEP SCREEN TIME AND BEDTIME SEPARATE

Don’t let your child’s normal bedtime shift too much later during this quarantine period. One way to enforce bedtime is to shut off screens at least one hour before lights out. When kids (and adults) use screens before bedtime, they’re more likely to want to “watch another episode,” further delaying their bedtime. They also may become psychologically stimulated by something they read or see, which may make it harder for them to fall asleep, even if they go to bed on time. In addition, bright light from screens can suppress the natural release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. In other words, protect bedtime by reducing evening screen time. – Lauren Hale, Ph.D. – Professor, Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine Program, Program in Public Health, Renaissance School of Medicine, Stony Brook University

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

Both you and your adolescent may find yourselves feeling anxious right now. Emphasize that regular life is sometimes interrupted in unexpected ways, but that things will eventually go back to normal. Help them avoid bingeing on COVID-19 news by steering them toward more healthy and enriching content, and remind them that now is a time for everyone to come together and help each other out. – Elizabeth K. Englander, PhD Director, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Bridgewater State University

HIT THE RESET BUTTON

Everyone’s a bit stressed these days, and kids can sense it. Many will turn to their favorite passive activities, especially those involving screens, as a way of managing their fears. If your children suddenly can’t tear themselves away from YouTube, more frequent check-ins with a gradual decrease in daily screen time may help to reset their “digital programming.” – Meredith Gansner, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Cambridge Health Alliance

APPRECIATE THE LITTLE THINGS

Recognize that during this time, you will not be as efficient at your job, and your child will likely not learn as much as they would if they were physically attending school. This is all okay. The greatest lesson you can teach your teen, and learn with them, is that you are resilient. You can take a scary and chaotic situation and find beauty, purpose, and connection. – Colleen Kraft, MD

ASK FOR HELP

Now is a time when those teens who already struggle with their screen use are at risk of seriously losing control. Once an adolescent has fallen into addiction, tremendous family conflict is likely to ensue as parents try to take control. With families confined in their homes without a ready way to ease the tension, the situation may become volatile. Following the suggestions found here to create structure, build connections and encourage creative and social uses of tech and non-tech time may salvage the situation. But, if parents do find themselves dealing with an out-of-control teen and can’t seem to lead them onto healthier ground, there are counselors and coaches who specialize in internet addiction. Telehealth is not an ideal way to begin a helping relationship, but it may be what saves your sanity. – Dr. Hilarie Cash, Chief Clinical Officer and Co-Founder of reSTART Life, PLLC

DANGER AND OPPORTUNITY

Compared to adults, children and adolescents are typically less future-oriented, so present-moment experiences are particularly salient for them. As such, children and adolescents may be more inclined during the pandemic to turn to the internet for immediate gratification. There is potential danger in this: kids can get into patterns of gaming or social media consumption that may involve many hours of screen time, generate habits that may be problematic or difficult to break once the pandemic subsides, or engage in boundary-pushing or risky behavior without parental knowledge. However, there is also the opportunity here to involve youth in more adaptive patterns of internet use. For example, in the coming weeks and months, families may be foregoing in-person meetings in favor of remote holiday gatherings over the internet. Encouraging adolescents to help arrange and organize such events may provide opportunities for empowering youth to engage in more healthy forms of internet use. – Marc N Potenza, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Child Study and Neuroscience, Yale School of Medicine

As kids get older, their needs continue to evolve, but as our experts point out, many of the basic tenets of parenting in the digital age remain the same. With the independence of college and adulthood on the horizon, it’s important to reinforce thoughtful decision-making and responsible online behavior, and we hope these tips can help guide you and your family towards a healthy future together.

About Children and Screens

Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development is a 501C(3) national non-profit organization founded by Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra. Children and Screens advances interdisciplinary research, supports human capital in the field, informs and educates the public, and advocates for sound public policy for child health and wellness.

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Parenting Kids During Covid-19

12 TIPS FOR PARENTING YOUNG KIDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

After the overwhelming response to our recent newsletter about at-home learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Children and Screens has teamed up with some of the top experts in the fields of parenting, education, and child psychology to bring you a new series of helpful hints and common-sense suggestions for navigating the uncertain days and weeks ahead. Raising young kids can be tricky, even under the best of circumstances, but as our experts share here, adaptability, patience, and understanding are the keys to ensuring healthy growth and relationship building during this crucial time in your child’s development.

Check out these 12 tips for parents of young children below, and be sure to tune in to the first installment of our upcoming interactive webinar series on April 27, when our panel of experts will chat about healthy screen habits for kids ages 5 and under and answer your questions via Zoom. RSVP here.

DON’T FEEL GUILTY
We know you’re stretched thin and doing your best to manage a whole host of issues, so please don’t feel guilty if your kids are engaging in more screen time than you’d typically allow. There are so many wonderful educational resources out there, even for very young children, and we recommend making the most of them (and getting other family members involved where possible). The use of video chat on a regular basis is also highly recommended to maintain social ties with friends and family members. – Dr. Sarah M. Coyne, PhD, Professor Associate Director, School of Family Life Brigham Young University

ROLE WITH IT
Both you and your children will need time to adjust to your new roles. In one fell swoop, you’ve become a stay-at-home parent, a teacher, and a frontline responder (aka superhero). Be patient with this transition. It may be rocky at first, but children are adaptable and will thrive with well-intentioned efforts. – Kara Bagot, MD, Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Department of Psychiatry

REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE
With social distancing in full effect, it’s impossible for toddlers to get the kind of in-person attention they’d normally receive from friends and family. In order to maintain those tactile connections, it can be helpful to serve as the “hands and heart” for your loved ones while video chatting. For instance, if Grandpa motions to “tickle” your baby’s tummy, give your child’s tummy a tickle. If Grandma leans toward the screen for a kiss, give your toddler a kiss on the cheek. By taking on this role, you can help nurture the relationship between the child and their loved ones on screen. – Rachel Barr, Georgetown University; Rebecca Palarkain, ZeroToThree; Elisabeth McClure, Lego Foundation

GAME ON
When video chatting with young children, try rhymes, songs, dancing, finger plays, and games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek. The more toddlers can participate in screen time, the more they’ll get out of it. – Rachel Barr, Georgetown University; Rebecca Palarkain, ZeroToThree; Elisabeth McClure, Lego Foundation

TALK TALK TALK
Be a part of your young child’s screen time. Sitting with them, holding them, and, most importantly, talking to them are all important ways to help children learn and feel safe. Make a game out of describing what different characters on the screen are doing. Point and label the objects and people that appear in the videos you watch. Sharing screen time can be an excellent opportunity to talk with and engage your toddler. – Ellen Wartella, Director of the Center on Media and Human Development, Northwestern University

ONE MORE TIME!
It’s OK if your child wants to watch the same show or series over and over again. Children learn more with each repetition of a book or a song, and the same goes for screen media. The more children watch the same show or play the same game, the more they understand the storyline and educational content. – Alexis R. Lauricella, Associate Professor and Director of the Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center, Erikson Institute

PAJAMA DAY (ONLY 1X/WEEK)
In anxious times, kids benefit from predictability and daily structure. As best as you can, maintain a basic schedule for things like meals, self-care, schoolwork, and screen time. Invite them to help you make and decorate a weekly schedule, and be sure to include some fun ideas for joint parent/kid break times. – Meredith Gansner, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Cambridge Health Alliance

READY, SET, PLAY!
It’s a good time for all of us, kids and adults to like, to PLAY. Put on music and dance! Work on a puzzle, break out a board game! Grab those Legos and build a castle! Don’t forget how to have fun with your little ones. – Elizabeth K. Englander, PhD Director, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Bridgewater State University

ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL
Understand that there are developmental differences between children of different ages. Homeschooling a kindergartener will be very different than homeschooling a seventh grader. While younger children may need you to keep a closer eye on them, older and more independent kids can set goals and check in with you on their progress. – Colleen Kraft, MD

STAY CONNECTED
Physical objects and activities can help bridge the gaps presented by social distancing. When video chatting, encourage your child’s screen partner to read a favorite book while the child follows along with his or her own copy. Invite the video partner to play with a toy car while your child rolls around in their own. Puppets and stuffed animals are great props for playing together virtually, and sharing a snack together is always a favorite for young children. Joint activities will help your kids stay connected with their on-screen partners. – Rachel Barr, Georgetown University; Rebecca Palarkain, ZeroToThree; Elisabeth McClure, Lego Foundation

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE INTERACTIVE
Screen time isn’t inherently good or bad; what matters is how we choose to use it. Screens can take us to the zoo, guide us through the great museums of the world, and keep us fit with healthy movement games. Make the most of the current situation by finding active, engaging, meaningful, fun, and socially interactive choices to invest in. – Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D Temple University, senior fellow Brookings Institution; author Becoming Brilliant

BORED IN THE USA
Not only is it OK to be bored, it’s beneficial! These days, we’re all so constantly bombarded with stimulation and entertainment that we’re left with little time to explore our own thoughts and dreams. Let’s use this time to develop that important skill, and to appreciate the healthy power of boredom. – Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D Temple University, senior fellow Brookings Institution; author Becoming Brilliant

At the end of the day, nothing is more important than making sure your child feels safe, nourished, and loved. It won’t always be easy, but we hope parents can incorporate these 12 tips, along with a little extra kindness and creativity, as they adjust to their new roles and make the most out of the unexpected.

For more tips, and to have your questions answered by experts, don’t forget to register for our virtual workshop here.

About Children and Screens
Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development is a 501C(3) national non-profit organization founded by Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra. Children and Screens advances interdisciplinary research, supports human capital in the field, informs and educates the public, and advocates for sound public policy for child health and wellness.